LIMERICK’s Paul O’Shea scored a massive five-star win on Saturday at Spruce Meadows in Canada, when he partnered Imerald Van’t Voorhof to victory in the ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup, the first Irish winner of the big competition.
Some 31 combinations qualified for the two-round Grand Prix hoping to get a piece of the $500,000 purse, with the top 12 advancing to the second round, seven of them going forward with a clear round on the board.
The second round was a real challenge, asking riders to complete a longer track with 13 jumping efforts and a tight time allowed on 67 seconds. At the end of the second round, O’Shea and Imerald Van’t Voorhod were the only combination not to lower a fence over two rounds and therefore finished top of the leaderboard. The pair picked up a single time fault in the second round, while none of the others on a score of zero could manage to jump a clear round.
Mexican riders Eugenio Garza Perez and Patricio Pasquel both carried four faults into round two, but clear second rounds put them in second and third places respectively.
“He’s a great water jumper and very brave. I had a feeling if I brought him here he would excel,” said Paul O’Shea who was competing the horse at Spruce Meadows for the first time. The pair earned $160,000 for first place.
The class roll of honour reads like a who’s who of legendary horses, including four-time winner Hickstead (Eric Lamaze), Authentic (Beezie Madden), Azur (McLain Ward) and the 2016/2017 back-to-back winner Kent Farrington with the great Gazelle.
Team Eye Candy’s 11-year-old mare Hellcat was also in good form at the venue, finishing second and third last week. the runner-up position came in Thursday’s five-star speed class when they were one of 12 clears in 69.13 seconds, just ahead of compatriot Jordan Coyle in third with Picador (69.69). victory went to Canada’s Jim Ifko with Un Diamant des Forets (66.37).
O’Shea and Hellcat then finished third in Sunday’s 1.50m to earn $20,000. Coyle was fourth with the Irish Sport Horse Ballyoskill Big Bucks, taking home $13,770.
Conor Swail was also in action at the venue and he finished runner-up in Saturday’s 1.50 jump-off with Gamble to earn $15,000. In a 10-horse jump-off, the pair were one of seven clears in 42.65 seconds. Victory went to Britain’s Matt Sampson with Ebolensky (0/0 41.81).
Two-star win for Coyle
Jordan Coyle landed a two-star victory in Friday’s 1.45m jump-off. He guided Elan Farm’s Centriko Volo to the fastest of five double clear rounds in 40.44 to take home a prize fund of $12,375.
He saw off stiff competition from Sampson in second place with the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Curraghgraigue OBOS Flight (OBOS Quality – Curraghgraigue Errigal) who was bred by Baden Powell.